Author: Diane Chamberlain
Secret Lives is a story that dragged me in and left me with many questions right until the very end but all the threads were masterfully woven to keep the reader guessing. This edition was released on the 1st of March but the Author’s Note at the end of the novel tells me it’s a re-release.
Eden Riley is a Hollywood sweetheart, she has quite a squeaky clean reputation and many of her movies have been adaptations of her mother’s children’s books. After the breakdown of her marriage Eden is disillusioned with Hollywood and not sure what comes next until in an interview she announces the desire to make a movie based on the life of her mother, the reclusive children’s author Katherine Swift. The announcement takes everyone by surprise, including Eden who had never considered the idea until it came to her in that moment.
She returns to her mother’s childhood home in Virginia to search for answers and learn all she can to ensure the movie she makes portrays the real woman behind the reclusive author. Eden remembers little of the mother who passed away when she was very young but knows that her reputation doesn’t do justice to the woman. Returning to Lynch Hollow isn’t easy for Eden, she has been avoiding spending time there since she was a teen. Time spent with her Aunt and Uncle has never been comfortable either and she has just signed on for two months with them over summer.
Eden has perfected the art of playing a role, it’s what makes her such a brilliant actress. In Hollywood she is always Eden the actress, it makes it hard to remember who Eden the woman is, when she returns to Lynch Hollow she finds herself becoming more and more herself, and enjoying not having to play a role; being out of the public eye. The longer she is in Lynch Hollow the more in touch with herself she becomes.
Secret Lives is Katherine’s story as much as it is Eden’s and being told retrospectively through journal entries. Uncle Kyle has Katherine’s journals and he rations them out to Eden, allowing her to get to know Katherine at his pace. The journal is written from a first person perspective with Katherine sharing her innermost thoughts in the only way she felt she could. As the journal entries unfold we get to know Katherine, the real Katherine, and understand how she came to earn her reputation. It allows Eden to get to to know her mother in a way that may not have been possible were she still alive.
The relationship Eden shares with her aunt and uncle has always been strained and as Eden gets to know herself she starts to see the relationship from a different perspective, gaining a new insight. The longer she spends with them the more the relationship changes, the more she changes and the Hollywood starlet may never be the same again.
Lynch Hollow also brings her into contact with Ben Alexander, an archeologist working for Kyle. The two spend a lot of time together but both are wary of starting anything; determined to fight the attraction.
There are secrets in all of these relationships and though it’s true that some secrets are best left buried, it is also true that the truth will always be unearthed.
Each of the characters are well fleshed and all are flawed. The situations these characters find themselves in aren’t everyday occurrences, it isn’t easy to put yourself in their shoes. The questions they need to ask themselves and the choices they are forced to make are ones not to be envied. I spent many an hour pondering the story and trying to piece together the answers, I didn’t get them all.
Secret Lives is an engaging tale that played out in two time lines with us uncovering Katherine’s secrets right alongside Eden and understanding why Kyle rationed out the journals the way he did. I loved the characterisation, the setting was beautifully drawn and the storylines were engrossing though at times quite difficult to read. Child abuse is never an easy topic to see, read or hear about regardless of the form it takes so be warned, there are passages that aren’t easy to read but they are well written and add an interesting depth to the story.
My only issue with Secret Lives is the way that it ends, I would have liked a little more closure – and an epilogue.